Saturday, January 31, 2015

Decline of the Empire

A while back I picked up a copy of Solitaire Caesar and I have been playing it at a glacial pace ever since. Today, I completed the last three turns and ended my first game.

The last time I posted about it, Rome had fallen in the 700s and the empire had been split. Since then, Rome was retaken but Hispania and Gaul fell to the barbarians by 1100. In the 1100s, major incursions by the Persians and Arabs overran much of the eastern empire. I decided to consolidate my holdings and withdraw from Asia. This put sea between the empire and the barbarians, which would make it harder for them to invade. By 1300, the empire looked like this:

The Empire ca 1300

You can see that Rome remained in Imperial hands, but the legions were withdrawn to protect the east. An invasion from the north finally overran Rome, but the imperial navy managed to stave off attacks from Asia. The final result looked like this:

Game End - ca 1500
I ended the game with 173 victory points, which is considered "historical" and just shy of "good." I can't say that my strategy was very good for most of the game (though I think my consolidation to Greece helped preserve the empire in the end). Luck played a major role; early on the barbarian invasions were relatively small but later in the game the empire got hammered by large incursions.

Looking back at my notes, the empire reached its peak around 500 AD when it held off the Germanic invaders and managed to hold the entirety of the historical Roman Empire, aside from Britain. It lost a couple of provinces until the Berbers penetrated Italy and sacked Rome. From then, the empire slowly lost territory until the end of the game.

RETROSPECTIVE(S) - Third Reich and Axis and Allies

Similar to my experiences with Air War and Ace of Aces, Third Reich and Axis & Allies reinforced my preference for simpler games. Both have the same theme, a strategic level replay of World War II. That’s about where the similarities end for these games are about as far apart design-wise as possible. Third Reich was an intricately detailed and complex simulation while Axis and Allies is a simple, beer & pretzels game.

My first experience was with Third Reich.

My friend Pat, our D&D Dungeon Master and the collector of Avalon Hill games, owned it and introduced it to our gaming group. I can’t say I remember much about it (other than that it was rated at a complexity of 10 out of 10, if I recall correctly). We tried to play it once but did not get very far. I picked up a copy, read through the rulebook multiple times, but I just could not grasp the rules (there were just too many). For me, Third Reich was a bust.

Enter Axis & Allies, the now-classic game originally by Milton Bradley.

With its plastic pieces and map divided into territories rather than a hex-grid, it was reminiscent of Risk but its gameplay was a step up in sophistication. There were different types of units (from armor and infantry to battleships, aircraft carriers, bombers, and fighters), each with different strengths and weaknesses. Part of the challenge of the game was to purchase the right mix of units to maximize your military’s potential. This optimal mix depended on the country you played. Russia, being on the defensive early in the game, tended to focus on lots of cheap infantry. The map spanned the entire globe with the Axis powers intent on conquest while the Allies seek to stop them. The rules were simple, so our globe-spanning battles proceeded quickly and bloodily and our games ended with definitive conclusions (usually with the Allies victorious).

I can’t say that Axis & Allies was an accurate simulation of World War II. For one thing, we learned that the best strategy for the Axis was for the Japanese to attack the Russians from the rear. I remember one game where Japanese forces entered Moscow. Obviously, this did not happen for real, and I suspect that the logistical challenges would have made it much harder in real life than it is in the game. Despite its flaws as a simulation, Axis & Allies engaged us, and we played it somewhat frequently (the game’s length – listed on Wikipedia as 2-10 hours – restricted the number of times we played). Clearly, this game won big over Third Reich.

Now that I am older, with much less time at my disposal, I rarely play Axis & Allies. Today, I prefer games that can be completed in an hour or so. Nevertheless, Axis & Allies clearly influenced me. Combined with Ace of Aces, it reinforced my preference for simple rules. Also, if I remember correctly, it was the first board wargame I played that used miniatures for playing pieces (back then, my copy of Risk used weird geometric shapes and Avalon Hill games used counters). It revealed to me that playing with miniatures is cool, even if it’s a board game. Today, my solo miniature games are essentially board games with miniatures, an approach inspired in part by Axis & Allies.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


Today I am going to take a break from wargaming reminisces to bring you a retrospective of a different take. This morning, I was saddened to read of the passing of Ernie Banks.

A young Ernie Banks
For any baseball fan, or even any Chicagoan, this name needs no introduction but others may need a short bio. Banks played baseball for the Chicago Cubs from the 50s through 1971. During that time, he was one of the best in the major leagues during that time, hitting over 500 home runs over his career. He was at his peak in the late 50s, winning the Most Valuable Player award in back-to-back seasons (while on a losing team - an unheard of accomplishment!) He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in his initial year of eligibility and was selected for Major League Baseball's All-Century team.

More importantly for Chicago, he was the face of the Cubs franchise and a ray of sunshine among the gloom of Chicago baseball. You see, that era was a bad time for Cubs fans; they were perennial losers. They hadn't been to the World Series since 1945 and hadn't won it since 1906 (streaks of futility that are ongoing today). But this didn't bother Ernie; he just loved playing the game. His famous catchphrase was "Let's play two!" He wasn't ready to go home when the game was over; he wanted to play another. His skill and his optimism endeared him to the city of Chicago.

During the 60s, I was one of those legions of Ernie Banks fans. I remember coming home from school and turning on the game to see how Ernie was doing. I was such a fan that I would get jealous for him if any other player had a better game than him (hey, I was really young - the whole team aspect was a little beyond my grasp then). Ernie Banks was my first sports hero.

It has been many years since Banks graced the baseball field. Since then, my interest in baseball has waned. In 1971 (the year he retired), my family moved to South Florida and I began following the Miami Dolphins football team (at the time Miami did not have a Major League Baseball team - some would say that we still don't). Today, I am more a fan of football than baseball. Nevertheless, when I read of Banks's passing, memories of my youth came flooding back: Rushing home to watch him on TV; my Dad taking me to Wrigley to see him in person; pretending to be Ernie Banks while playing baseball in the backyard. Banks may never have won a World Series, but he was a champion in a young boy's heart, and I thank him for those good times and good memories.

"Let's play two!"

Saturday, January 17, 2015

RETROSPECTIVE(S) - Air War and Ace of Aces

For today’s Retrospective, I’m going to reflect upon a pair of air wargames. My father was a pilot and from an early age I wanted to follow in his footsteps, become an Air Force pilot (hopefully a fighter jock) and then have a career in the airlines. Given my dreams for my future, it was only natural that I would gravitate to air combat games.

In the late 1970s, my father gave me a copy of SPI’s Air War for my birthday.

This board game was considered the pinnacle of realism, with very detailed rules designed to replicate actual aircraft performance. I was very excited with the gift; I could be a fighter jock! I read through the rules and then tried a game. I don’t remember any specifics of how it worked. I only remember that our one dogfight, which would represent a couple of minutes, took what seemed like a few hours to play (it may have been less; I just remember it taking a LONG time). It felt more like a long, drawn-out chess match rather than a seat-of-the-pants dogfight where the pilot has to make split-second decisions. This was realism?

It may have been that very same birthday when a friend gave me Ace of Aces.

This is a very clever WWI air combat game. The heart of the system was 2 books (one Allied and one German) with a variety of pages showing a view from your cockpit toward your opponent.

At the bottom of the page are maneuvers you can perform. Each turn, both players select a maneuver, and then cross reference the numbers under the selected maneuver, which points you to a new page showing your new relative positions based on the selected maneuvers. There is not a lot of differentiation between aircraft (in the basic game a Fokker Dr. I will “fly” exactly the same as a Sopwith Camel) so this game can hardly be said to be a realistic simulation of air combat. Yet it felt realistic. We played quickly, shouting out our maneuvers at a breakneck pace. It seemed like that seat-of-the-pants dogfight I wanted.

This was one of my favorite games in high school and we played it to death. It was very portable (for the basic game you only need the two books) so I brought it to school. My friends and I played it during lunch, between classes, and even during class (using hand signals to designate our maneuvers). The major drawback was that it was pretty much limited to 1-on-1 dogfights. There were rules for larger battles, but they seemed a bit clunky. At one point I was able to figure out how the maneuvers worked and translated them to a board, but I never got around to playing it that way. Nowadays, if I have a hankering for air combat, I usually play a video game (although I still own my original copy of Ace of Aces and have experimented with some modern games, such as Eindekker and Down in Flames).

My experiences with Air War and Ace of Aces would leave an indelible mark on my gaming. Air War, with all its technical accuracy, utterly failed to evince the rapid decision-making of a dogfight. Ace of Aces, despite its abstractions, succeeded. This contrast showed me that more complex was not necessarily more realistic. Ever since, I have been a fan of simple rules that can still “feel” right.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

More on the Grayrock Revolution

Per my earlier discussion on the status of the revolution, I decided to apply retroactively Kaptain Kobold’s “Campaign for Alto Peru” proclamation system. I went back through the archives of history and found the following battles:

  1. Maraconi – rebel victory
  2. Dardona – Bluderian victory
  3. Balderdash Pass – rebel victory
  4. Skirmish in the Mountains – rebel victory
  5. Grayrock City Uprising – rebel victory
  6. Siege of Grayrock City – Bluderian victory
  7. Nieuville – rebel victory

I did not realize that the rebels had won three in a row. To be fair, one was a minor skirmish and the other was a popular uprising. The contending sides did alternate victories in field battles, but I think I should include the skirmish and the uprising.

I was doing some back-of-the envelope calculations so I did not do any dice rolling. Instead, I assumed that a victory allowed the winner to claim a neutral political token. If there were no neutral ones, then the loser had to forfeit a token to the neutral pile. I had to fudge the Demoralization Points because I did not always record the difference in losses. Instead, I went through the battle reports and classified each as a minor, moderate, or major victory. I considered most minor victories because they all appeared to be close run things. I classified the Uprising as moderate because of its political implications (loss of the capital). Per my calculations, the status after Nieuville is:
  • Bluderians: 1 political token, 3 dps
  • Rebels: 4 political tokens, 1 dp
Thus, after the last battle the rebels would need to roll 5 or less to win the campaign. I just picked up a die and rolled a 2. However, it seems very anti-climatic. I am very tempted to play out one more battle, although I should give the rebels an advantage. Anyway, here is how I envision the revolution proceeding:

Status – Retreat to Glumport
The rebel victory at Nieuville emboldened the citizenry of Grayrock, sparking a surge of resistance to Bluderian authority. Military couriers were waylaid, supply wagons ambushed, and isolated outposts sacked. Fearful of his supply lines, General Waffenhoffer abandoned the siege of Grayrock City and retreated to the coastal town of Glumport, where he could be supplied by ship.

Meanwhile, the Viceroy and a scattering of Bluderian officials remained besieged in Grayrock Castle, although the royal navy kept them supplied. Nevertheless, the rebels gained complete control over the rest of the city. When Esquire Giovanni marched into the city, throngs of eager Grayrockians cheered his entry. Giovanni called for the Viceroy's surrender but the Bluderian official showed a little backbone and refused.

The King of Bluderia was furious with events in Grayrock. He blamed General Waffenhoffer. In a radical maneuver, the King removed Waffenhoffer and replaced him with a foreigner - the dreaded General "Black Bart" Blackwell. Black Bart vowed to bring the rebels to battle and crush them.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Part 4 of the retrospective series on the games that most influenced me.

Not only did my friend Pat introduce me to D&D, he had a large collection of modern (i.e. published in the 1970s) Avalon Hill board games. We played quite a few of his games, like Jutland and Starship Troopers. At the time, my favorite was Kingmaker. I enjoyed it so much that went out and bought my own copy! I proceeded to play it time and again, by myself.

Kingmaker is a strategic game of dynastic conflict during England’s Wars of the Roses (by the way, this game was a history lesson for me. As an American, I was not exposed to much medieval English history, other than the Magna Carta). Each player runs a faction and tries to control the throne. Play is very random; there are event cards and your faction is made up of nobles drawn from another deck of cards.
Kingmaker's components.
Beside the board I see 3 piles of cards that appear to be 3 factions.

This randomness made it easy to play alone. More often, it seemed you were playing against the system (My most powerful noble is being sent to the Northern marches?! That leaves the rest of my force vulnerable to attack!) rather than the “enemy.” Yet there were still glorious battles and epic sieges (not to mention plague), which captured my imagination.

With Kingmaker, I entered a new era of boardgaming. I eschewed the old-fashioned 1960s games of my father in favor of newer games. Most significantly, however, it taught me that solo gaming is a viable source of entertainment. Over the past 30 years (after I stopped being part of a D&D group), most of my gaming has been solo, and I actually enjoy it. I can choose rules that I prefer; I can experiment with different rules and campaign systems; I have free reign for my imagination; I can create scenarios that may be unbalanced and unfair, but are interesting to me. Solo gaming provides extensive mental stimulation and entertainment. Without Kingmaker, I may never have known that going solo is a possible option.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

2mm or not 2mm. That is the question.

Although I am not using the rules as written, One-Hour Wargames has sparked a resurgence of interest in horse & musket battles. Since the beginning of this blog I’ve talked about completing the armies of Francesia and once again I am pondering this project.

The big question: 2mm or 6mm?

I really like the Baccus 6mm miniatures and am tempted to go that route. However, I have a lot of 2mm stuff and I do like the scale. Which one should I choose? Well, let’s look at the pros and cons.

6mm pros:
  • Larger figures look better in photographs (important for my blog)
  • Larger figures are easier to pick up
  • It is easier to distinguish between troop types (e.g. elites vs. regulars)
  • Squares look more full (using 2mm the squares look a little empty)

2mm pros:
  • I already have completed armies for the Empire, Redgrave, and Bluderia
  • I can probably complete an army quicker
  • I already have terrain 
    • I can use the hills I have
    • I have a few 6mm trees but could use more
    • My biggest gap is buildings. I would need to make some
  • Looks more realistic (like a helicopter view of the battlefield, although I probably should rebase so that there are 2 blocks on a base)
To sum up, 6mm will look better but 2mm will be easier to do. 
Decisions, decisions.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Star Cup 3 - Game 1

The Rules
A few days ago I mentioned my streamlined rules for Star League games. They work great for automating games, but they turn the game into a simple dice-rolling exercise. To make it more interesting for manual play, I added some additional decision points. The idea is that I will be running one of the teams while the other is automated. I’ll make the following decisions for my team.

  • Every turn (possession), I can choose a strategy:
    • Aggressive offense – roll +1 on offense rolls but -1 on defense rolls
    • Stout defense – roll +1 on defense but -1 on offense
    • Balanced approach – no modifiers
  • At any time, I can use choose to use Star Power to make a re-roll. I get 2 Stars per game.
  • Once per game, I can order a Crush. I set my bruisers to take out the opponent’s players. For the turn, the opponent gets -1 on all rolls. However, if a roll comes up doubles then the bruisers have drawn a penalty and the opposing team gets a penalty shot.

Naturally, this will give my team an advantage, but I’m OK with that. If it is too powerful, I can always eliminate Star Power.

The Game
I decided to use these rules for the Star Cup series. I will play the home team, which will give a home court advantage. Because they had the best record, the Antarens get home court for games 1 and 3.

The game began with quick action as the Hydrans took the opening tip off, raced down court, and slammed the ball into the net. A few minutes later the Antarens followed suit to tie the game. They would trade unsuccessful shots but at the end of the half the Hydrans made another run and smashed a shot into the goal for a 2-1 lead.

At this point, I had not used any of the powers. That would change in the second half.

Early in the half, the Antarens choose to adopt an aggressive offense. They managed to get control of the ball, found an opening in the defense, and then scored to tie the game. Pressing hard, the Antaren coach ordered a crush, but his bruisers were too aggressive. The referee called a penalty, giving the Hydrans a free shot. The Antaren goalie knocked the shot aside to keep the game tied. As time dwindled down, the Antarens went into an aggressive offense. They managed to get a shot but the goalie blocked it. Regulation ended with a 2-2 tie.

In overtime, the Antarens were able to control the ball but struggled to get a shot. It wasn't until late in the period that they managed one, but their aim was true and the ball slipped into the net. The Antarens took game 1 of the Star Cup.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

RETROSPECTIVE - Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

Another installment of my retrospective series on the games that influenced me the most.

I was a sophomore in high school when I met Pat. He was new in our school and we were in the same Spanish class. I don’t remember how we started talking or how it came up (perhaps because I was big into Tolkien at the time) but he told me about this strange new game called Dungeons & Dragons (he had the recently published “Advanced” rules).

It was a roleplaying game, whatever that was. There was no board or pieces (although we would eventually start using miniatures). Instead, the action went on in your imagination. What was cool was that in this imaginary world you could become a great hero like Aragorn or a wizened wizard like Gandalf! I was enthralled and eagerly accepted his invitation to play. He formed a group that met at his place and we delved into dangerous, and profitable, dungeons. My first character, Kevron, died as a result of internecine party strife but my next character, Kearnon, would rise in level until I “retired” him when I went to college. (Kearnon died once during his adventuring days but was reincarnated as a sentient golem). I met some D&Ders in college and continued to play. A lack of fellow players and dissatisfaction with D&D’s 2nd edition resulted in an end to my formal RPG days.

Although I haven’t been part of a regular RPG group in nearly 30 years, D&D had an enormous influence on me. It introduced me to the genre of role-playing games, of which I still take an interest and still play in some form (such as my solo Tales of the Templars campaign and even video games). Furthermore, D&D kept me active in gaming throughout my high school and college days. I found fellow players outside my family who shared my interests. Without them, my participation in the hobby may have dwindled to nothing (in which case this blog may never have existed).

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Battle of Nieuville - A Grayrock Revolution Battle

I've been publishing Retrospectives on Saturdays and I have one ready, but I am going to save it for tomorrow. Instead, I have a battle report. Kaptain Kobold asked for more horse & musket battles so I played out another clash of the Grayrock Revolution. I have gone back to my grid-based rules (I did not like measuring or recording casualties) but I used One-Hour Wargames to determine the army compositions and the battle scenario. The scenario is # 15 - Fortified Defense and the army lists are as follows:

Bluderia - 4 infantry, 1 artillery, 1 cavalry
Grayrock - 3 infantry, 1 artillery, 2 skirmishers
Note - I don't have gray infantry in 2mm so I am using white as a substitute.

In addition, I used Thomas's solo set-up system to deploy the Bluderian forces. Random rolls ended up with a strong left flank (consisting of 2 infantry and the artillery) and a weak center (infantry only). I positioned the Grayrockian infantry in the built-up areas (the town of Nieuville in the center and the village of Hogfast on the left) and on a hill. Skirmishers are in the woods (right) with artillery in the center. I am not using generals in this game. Also, you will note that I am using my 2mm figures.

After his unsuccessful attempt to break the siege of the capital, Giovanni retreated to the town of Nieuville. He soon received word that Bluderia's General Waffenhoffer had left a token force in front of the city and was rapidly pursuing the rebel army. Giovanni set up a defensive perimeter running from Hogfast to the woods.

Waffenhoffer advanced on a broad front, with the bulk of his forces ready to assail Hogfast.
Disposition after the Bluderians move onto the battlefield (facing south)
 Waffenhoffer ordered the attack and the left flank attacked the village. Meanwhile, the cavalry advanced between the woods and the rocky ground.
The opening confrontation on the left.
 Sustained fire forced the Grayrock infantry from the village but with reinforcement they advanced to retake it.

Per Thomas's scenario, the infantry in the village is not supposed to leave, but the Command & Colors-inspired rules I'm using allow for forced retreats (on a roll of a flag on my C&C dice). I interpreted the rule that the infantry could not be commanded to leave but could be forced out.

Speaking of dice, I determined activation by rolling 3 dice. After a few turns I realized that, at the pace dictated by such few dice, the Bluderians could not win by the scenario-allotted 15th turn. I then upped the activation dice to 6, which seemed to allow a sustained offensive but still provided some interesting, random twists. I extended the game a few extra turns to compensate for their restricted activations early on.
Grayrock loses the village but returns to contest it
 The Grayrock counterattack re-took Hogfast, and sent one Bluderian infantry unit running.
The village is back in Grayrock hands.
 The victory was short-lived as accurate fire forced the infantry back out of the village. Meanwhile, the skirmishers in the woods and the Grayrock artillery took a toll on Bluderian forces. Waffenhoffer ordered the cavalry to take out the artillery.
More fighting on the left.
Cavalry charges the guns (center)
 The cavalry is cut down and the skirmishers rout a Bluderian infantry unit.
Accurate Grayrock fire devastates the Bluderian center and right.
 By this time, the Bluderians had won the battle on the left but the Grayrockians were successful on the right and center.
End of the first phase of the battle.
Bluderia is victorious on the left but devastated in center and right.
 But now, Bluderian reinforcements arrived. The skirmishers had moved up and were ready to contest the advance.

In this scenario, the attackers may, at any time, declare a reset. Their remaining troops are withdrawn from the board, and the entire army returns, posing as reinforcements. After turn 8, I decided to do a reset (I figured it would take too long to reposition the weakened forces on the left). Troops needed to be activated to enter the board. I again rolled random dispositions and ended up with a strong right flank.

Per Thomas's rules, skirmishers are the only units allowed in woods. I used the same rules for the rocky ground (center).
Bluderian reinforcements arrive.
They make a strong advance on the right.
 Bluderian reinforcements moved into Hogfast while battle raged around the rocky ground.
Hogfast taken!
 More cavalry arrived on the battlefield. Once again they charged the Grayrock artillery, but this time they overran the guns. Unable to attack the remaining enemy (either in town or rough terrain), the cavalry withdrew.

Again, I am using some of Thomas's terrain rules, which restrict cavalry to open ground.
The cavalry charge takes out the artillery.
Bluderian musketry wiped out the skirmishers in the woods and they began to advance on Nieuville.
Advance on Nieuville.
Fire from Nieuville and the woods devastated the Bluderian infantry.

Per the scenario rules, the defenders of the town/village get a firing bonus. I gave them +1 die (like Memoir '44, infantry get a maximum of 3 dice, dropping to 1 die at a maximum range of 3 spaces).

I liked how Thomas's rules made skirmisher fire less effective than infantry fire, however I think that skirmishers should be more effective at long range (they are better shots, they can sneak up and then fall back, etc.). Therefore, in this game, skirmishers used 2 dice regardless of range. It seemed to work well.
The attackers are devastated.
By this time, it became clear to Waffenhoffer that he could not take Nieuville. He gave the command to withdraw his forces back to Grayrock City. The rebels were victorious!

This turned out to be a nail-biting scenario. Bluderia had cleared out Hogfast by turn 8 (about halfway through) and Grayrock forces looked stretched when the reinforcements arrived. However, the skirmishers and the infantry in Nieuville displayed some brutally effective musketry, wiping out a couple of units. At the end, only the infantry in Hogfast and the cavalry (which could not attack a town) remained.

On another note, I took another idea from Kaptain Kobold. Instead of my usual red casualty markers, I used little "rocks" (actually chunks of cork board). The markers look more natural that way.

On Campaigns

Or "What's Next for Grayrock?"

The rebel victory at Nieuville creates a dilemma for me. What next? Prior to the battle, I assumed that a Bluderian victory would end the war and snuff out the cause of Grayrock independence. But now that the rebels have won, have they gained their freedom? I'm not sure.

This is one of the difficulties of a linear campaign like Bob Cordery's Restless Revolutionaries. If the two sides alternate victories, as has happened with the Grayrock Revolution, then the war just keeps going. That may be realistic, but I start getting bored after half a dozen battles or so. How do I bring the war to a close?

In One-Hour Wargames (described in this battle report), Neil Thomas provides an excellent, quick-play campaign. The 30 battle scenarios in his book are divided into five groups of six battles. The campaign opponents randomly select one battle for each group. The winner of the previous battle gets to choose which side they'll play in the scenario, giving them an advantage without laborious record-keeping. Whoever wins the most battles is victorious in the campaign. I think this will be an excellent means for running 18th-century style, limited wars in Francesia. I'm already envisioning a war between the Empire and Redgrave for the coastal province of Blancport.

Will this work for Grayrock? I think I'm already over 5 battles. Besides, I don't know if Thomas's system is best suited for revolutions. There is, however, another campaign system with promise. A few months ago, Kaptain Kobold described a system for the Wars of Liberation in colonial South America. It involved collecting political tokens as a result of victory in battle. Victors could issue a proclamation; if successful the campaign ended in victory. I think I could use something similar for Grayrock. Excuse me now, I need to peruse Kaptain Kobold's campaign system in a little more detail.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Rome Has Fallen!

My office is closed for the new year holiday so I have been catching up on some of my games. Today, I decided to play a quick turn of Solitaire Caesar. The last time I played was over Thanksgiving, and my empire was doing quite well. This turn (the 700s) disaster struck. A horde of Berbers rushed out of the desert, sacked Carthage, crossed into Italy and ravaged the peninsula. Meanwhile, horsemen from the steppes thrust into Greece.

Here is how the "empire" looks now.

The Empire ca 800 AD
Actually, it is now split into two empires: a truncated western empire that holds Hispania and Gaul while the Eastern Empire holds much of the Mideast (and it managed to recapture Egypt this turn).

How long will the empires hold out?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Star League Update - Season 3

As I was reviewing my 2014 gaming materials, I realized that Star League had dropped by the wayside. My latest update was in October although I had finished a couple of weeks of play since then. In that same month I discussed the possibility of completing seasons quicker by automating play. I would choose a team and play its games normally while running other games with the automated feature.

Today, on a whim, I decided to play around with this idea. First, I greatly simplified the rules. Essentially, there are up to 3 die rolls per "possession" (with 6 possessions per half - what I had been averaging in 3 seasons using the original charts). The first roll determines who gets the ball, the second determines if that team can get off a shot on goal, and the final roll determines if the shot scores. All are opposed die rolls modified by team ratings. Rolling greater than the opponent results in a success (either gaining possession, getting a shot, or scoring a goal). I was able to use the randomizing feature in Excel to "automate" the game. A game can now be completed in the click of a single key.

I used my new system to complete Star League's season 3.

The Antarens used a 6 game winning streak to take the lead in the Galactic Division. In week 9, the Antarens and Denebians (both with 7 wins) played for the division lead. It was a titanic defensive struggle. The Antarens only managed 3 shots but converted on 2 of them. They managed to hold the Denebians to zero shots. In the final week, the Denebians and Canopans found themselves one game behind the Antarens, who were visiting the Canopans. A Canopan victory could have resulted in a three-way tie. The Canopans dominated the first half, but they could not score. At the end of the half, the Antarens managed to squeak the ball past the goalie. They added to their lead in the second, but then the Canopans scored to close the gap. Once again, the Antaren defense stiffened and the Canopans could not manage another shot. This victory gave the Antarens the division crown (the first team other than the Canopans to win).

The other division was not so dramatic. After a sluggish 3-3 start to the season, the Hydrans rattled off 4 straight wins. The other teams struggled, allowing the Hydrans to clinch the division in week 9. The Stellar Division also had a new champion (the Geminds won in seasons 1 and 2).

This promises to be an interesting match-up for the Star Cup. The Antarens had the league's best defense (1.6 goals against per game) while the Hydrans had the best offense (3.3 goals per game).

What's in Store for 2015?

As I discussed last year, I am going to avoid “performance-ism” so I won’t be posting a bunch of resolutions. However, I have some thoughts on where my gaming is going in 2015.

·         More board games – in part due to Wil Wheaton’s excellent web series Tabletop, my wife is now totally into board games. We picked up some new games for Christmas. I expect our collection to grow some more and Family Game Night to continue.
·         Sci-fi – this has become my main gaming interest. From my Space Templars RPG adventures to starship battles, I’m totally hooked. Expect more sci-fi games!
·         Francesia – Alas, sci-fi has pushed my horse & musket battles to the background, although One-Hour Wargames has rekindled some interest. I’d like to put together 6mm armies for the main armies but this will be a low priority effort. I do expect the medieval Francesian Conquest to continue.
·         LARP Actually, wargaming is my second favorite hobby. My favorite is live action role-playing (LARPing). I am a member of Amtgard and play on a weekly basis. I mentioned it before in this blog but haven’t discussed it much. I think that will change in 2015. I’d like to include updates on my LARP activities so that I have a record of them

·         Fewer posts – I set out to post more in 2014 than I did in 2013, and I was successful. I am not going to do that in 2015. Throughout the year, I felt pressure to post even if I had nothing to report. I don’t want to do that again. Therefore, it is likely that I will post less in 2015. I still hope to do weekly updates and I have another dozen posts planned for my Retrospective series.